* Suggests probationary period for companies seeking to join UK main market
* Says it was not allowed enough time to shift from “private, Kazakh-based company”
* UK parliamentarians have called for evidence from UK-based oil, mining industry
* ENRC, Bumi among companies expected to be in focus
LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Britain should consider introducing a “quarantine” period for foreign companies seeking to list in the country to allow them time to adapt to the tougher scrutiny of London’s main market, Kazakh miner ENRC told UK parliamentarians.
ENRC floated in London in late 2007 and is now set to delist after a buyout by its founders, but its years as a FTSE 100 heavyweight have been marred by acrimonious boardroom rows, corruption investigations and a poorly timed acquisition spree.
In a submission to the UK parliament’s Committee for Business, Innovation and Skills, published this week, ENRC said that it was not given time to evolve from a “private, Kazakh-based company”, and that its experience could put off others.
“We respectfully suggest that if London wishes to maintain a prominent role in attracting future London listings by foreign companies, it should consider introducing a quarantine period to allow a company to evolve with a degree of reputational protection,” ENRC said in the document.
ENRC, currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, gave no details on the probationary period it envisages, but compared it in the submission to some companies’ moves through to the main listing after spending time in London’s growth market, AIM, where requirements are less stringent.
“Foreign companies will observe the lengths that ENRC has gone to in order to comply and the significant financial investment that has been made and then observe how the company has been scrutinised,” the company said.
British lawmakers are investigating the UK-based mining and oil sector, with a probe expected to touch on areas including transparency and disclosure after shareholder battles and corruption investigations at mining companies like ENRC have left investors nursing heavy losses.
Written submissions had been due by the end of September, and a full inquiry with oral evidence is set to follow.
According to a study by UK Trade & Investment quoted by mining group BHP Billiton in its submission, UK-listed mining companies had a total market capitalisation of 265 billion pounds ($430 billion) in 2012, more than any other financial market in the world.
Britain’s financial regulator is already considering some changes to listing rules beyond the resources sector, particularly for firms which, like ENRC and Bumi, have controlling shareholders. The Association of British Insurers, whose members manage nearly $3 trillion of assets, has called for more protection for minority investors.
ENRC shares have dropped more than 80 percent from their 2010 peak, and the company is now set to delist within weeks after a successful buyout by its founders. It was demoted from the FTSE 100 last month.
Campaigners at transparency group Global Witness have called for UK authorities to block the delisting or prevent associated transactions until the SFO inquiry is complete.